6 Tips for Building High-Trust, Authentic Teams

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team building

By Mark Tribus
YPO Certified Forum Facilitator

I had the privilege of assisting in the development of a university sports team, conducting outdoor and indoor team building and leadership development. Prior to a major tournament, the head coach asked me to assist with the “chemistry and cohesion” of the team’s defensive unit and “enhance their bond as one team, and bring them closer together.”

During a closed-door session with 12 team members, I had the opportunity to create a “safe container” with men who trusted me from previous team building sessions. The session began with one question, “Do you have the courage to tell each other the truth?”

For the next 2.5 hours, we engaged in a confidential, sometimes intense, deeply vulnerable, and intimate conversation and exchange among the players. I admired and respected their commitment to and adoption of a singularly simple yet powerful tool – issues clearing. Highly regarded and adopted as the mechanism for YPO forum members to stay “clean and clear” with each other, the tool was particularly impactful during my time with these sports players.

Issues clearings outline a practical and compelling process for allowing two individuals to address an issue or conflict, or have a difficult conversation with the intended outcome of deeper understanding and a potential pathway toward resolution. These are the primary questions that are addressed in every issues clearing:

  • Is the other person ready to receive feedback from a teammate with an issue?
  • What are the facts regarding the issue or problem?
  • What judgments or opinions surround the facts?
  • What is the person with the issue feeling? (expressed in primary emotions)
  • What part does the person with the issue own in the issue or drama?
  • What does the person with the issue want?


The issue clearing was pivotal in allowing these young men to move to a place of “integrity” with each other. Each man had the opportunity to speak their truth, and address any issues or problems holding them back from being in a fully authentic, trusting relationship with other teammates.

Most, if not all of the men remarked that the session and process were instrumental in their stifling defensive efforts during the tournament, culminating with their first U.S. championship. I continue to use the process today with collegiate sport teams all over the country.

6 Tips for Building High Trust/Authentic Teams

  • Speak the truth as soon as possible to avoid misunderstanding, breaking integrity with another person and eroding trust in a relationship. Trust is built upon the truth.
  • Adopt a practice using a tool like the issues clearing model. The model must be practiced, from senior leaders on down, for impact and effectiveness to take root in any team or organization.
  • Take swift action to address individualistic and selfish behavior. Maister and Green’s research on trust defines trust as being the summation of Credibility + Reliability + Vulnerability/Self–Interest.
  • Leaders must set the example for being open, curious and vulnerable. Goffee and Jones’ HBR article “Why Should Anyone be Led by You?”reinforces the tenet that the most effective leaders selectively demonstrate weakness – they are human beings and not human doings. They are self-aware and seek the gift of feedback.
  • See each individual and not just a team. Leaders and teammates must place a premium on individualized consideration and concern for each unique teammate. Knowing each person’s story, and engaging their genius and talents is essential to maximizing the potential of the individual and the team.
  • Consistently practice face-to-face verbal appreciation, or hand-written notes to build and reinforce trust and authenticity in any relationship. Trust is the “glue” of any great team and peer-to-peer appreciation is the gas in a human being’s engine


YPO (Young Presidents’ Organization) is a not-for-profit, global network of young chief executives connected through the shared mission of becoming Better Leaders Through Education and Idea Exchange™. For more information, visit www.ypo.org.

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